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Update from Penang, August 2012

Hello from Penang! We’ve not been here for a while and how things have moved on since we were last there. Regular A Luxury Travel Blog readers might remember that I wrote a special feature last year about That Little Wine Bar. We went back to That Little Wine Bar again, and it was every bit as good as it was the first time. But they had some interesting news for us. Chef Tommes is now a TV chef on the Asian Food Channel (AFC) with his programme called Chalk and Cheese, which is broadcast about eight times a week. Sadly, we didn’t have a chance to see it, but if you’re in Asia and your particular cable or satellite package offers AFC, then perhaps you’ll be able to see Chef Tommes (and his co-host, Jojo Struys) in action. Another bit of news is that they’ve opened Penang’s first New York-style deli just around the corner. It’s called Irrawaddy Fine Foods and, as well as selling bread, delicious sandwiches, cheeses and charcuterie, it also has a good selection of imported foods for those who miss their fix of tastes from home. Get your Branston pickle here! Actually I don’t like Branston pickle very much but never mind. We had a meal at That Little Wine Bar again, and the food was divine. In my opinion this is easily the best place to eat in Penang. And, yes, we did go and eat at the E & O again, which was good, but not in the same league as That Little Wine Bar. That Little Wine Bar has a new sommelier, James – a very charming man and incredibly knowledgeable about the food and wine which is served in the restaurant. I made rather an odd choice because I chose what to eat and what to drink independently, without giving any thought to food and wine pairing. James’s eyebrows rose a millimetre. I could tell he thought it was an odd choice but he said that if that was what I wanted, then that would be fine. Of course he was right. My choice of wine didn’t go well with the food at all. I’d chosen a full-bodied red wine which was a bit too upfront for the food I had. Not to worry, no one forced me to eat and drink in the same mouthful. But despite enjoying my wine very much, I might pay more heed to James’s advice next time. Chef Tommes was there, of course, and it was fun to be talking to a celebrity chef, although I resisted the urge to ask him for his autograph. Apparently some people do! It’s not uncommon for him to be approached by strangers who recognise him from his television programme and want to have his autograph or a photo taken with him. Despite it being a busy Saturday evening, Louise – co-owner and front-of-house manager – made time to sit with us for a while and catch up on all the news. All in all, it was a great visit and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. That Little Wine Bar has also branched out into doing all sorts of activities such as wine tastings, cooking classes, and special event nights. I think if I lived in Penang they’d probably have to charge me rent because I would spend so much time there. Now, I don’t want to tell you what to do, I can only speak from my own experience. But if you are visiting Penang, then you would be crazy to miss out on this place. In my not very humble opinion, it’s simply the best!

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